Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the original Yakuza game released in English back in 2006. It was re-released in Japan for the PS3, but that never made it to the west. However, just over ten years later it is back with sharper visuals and the pressure cooker life of a Yakuza member.
As in all Yakuza games you play as Kazuma Kiryu a man with morals when compared to his peers. The story starts off in 1995 where you find Kazuma standing above a dead body with a gun in hand. He is promptly arrested for murder and the game continues to jump back and forth through time to unveil what really happened. After spending ten years in prison he falls straight back into the criminal underworld and gets caught up in the story of an orphaned girl named Haruka, missing money and the internal arguments between clans within the Yakuza.
The biggest draw to the Yakuza series has always been the story for me, I never played the original, so was extremely excited to try out this remake, but after playing it I find myself torn. On the one hand the story is great, but on the other it all feels very familiar. Throughout the campaign I kept getting a feeling of déjà vu, even though I only played Yakuza 3 & 4. It is probably because the combat, though tweaked is practically identical. You also spend the whole time in “Kamurocho” a copy of Tokyo’s Kabukicho district. You will spend hours here, and in some ways, does allow you to memorise the map and the locations without having to refer to the mini-map, but some variety would have been nice. Gameplay doesn’t really change either and you are usually doing 3 things; running to a location, talking to a non-playable character or fist fighting them. It isn’t until very late in the game that this is mixed up, but it took far too long for that to happen.
Having said that, Kiwami still manages to keep you interested to a degree. 4 fighting styles to switch between mix things up a little. Sometimes it is necessary against certain bosses as they move really quickly. You can choose between Brawler, Rush, Beast and Dragon, however I rarely used more than two of the disciplines. Upgrade points can also be spent to advance your abilities and in turn make the game a little easier. This is necessary as there are fights where you are pitted against a dozen guys all brandishing weapons.
Other new additions which are welcome is the save anywhere feature. Modern day consoles have the computing power to handle this now, but the implementation is poor and frankly obnoxious. Every time you want to save, the game flashes 6 different screens, after seeing this more than three times it starts to grate. This is a 15-hour game, and that is just the story missions, you can triple this if you want to go for the 100% completion, so you will see this save feature quite a lot.
Visually the game isn’t as impressive as a modern title, but it looks sharp, loads fast and there is no slowdown in the frame-rate. Some of the rain and the lighting effects look nice and the scanned faces still look great. My only knock against it is the single hub city you spend the majority of the game in lacks variety.
All dialogue is spoken in Japanese and subtitled in English. If you have ever watched a foreign film you will be fairly comfortable with this and it works great. The increased tension in the story coupled with the high-quality voice acting adds a sense of immersion to the game. Friends become foes and vice versa, there are fastpaced moments, slow ones, and you can never really trust anyone’s motives. Yakuza Kiwami truly is a roller coaster and even the way the game jumps from modern day to the past will keep you on your toes. At times it is confusing exactly when certain events take place, but you can piece it together as more plot points are divulged.
Yakuza Kiwami is a great story held back by the gaming mistakes of the past. It tries to fix some of them but implements them poorly. The game is full of content, sub stories and mini games and you could easily spend 40-50 hours in this world, but many of you will likely play the main story, because once it gets its hooks into you, it Is hard to walk away. Priced as a budget title, this could be the best time to give it a go.
- Replay Value